Monday, December 14, 2009

SPIDER-MAN #13 - August 1991

Sub-City - Part One

Credits: Todd McFarlane (artist/writer/letterer), Gregory Wright (colors)

Summary: Keever, a large man from the sewers, is kidnapping homeless people. While investigating the disappearances, Spider-Man chases Keever into the sewers but is flanked by an army of sewer dwellers. Convinced that his red costume is too noticeable, Spider-Man switches back to his black outfit. Returning to the sewers, he’s attacked again by the natives. Their new leader, Morbius, declares that he must pay a price.

I Love the ‘90s: Mary Jane refers to Peter as “homeboy.” Spider-Man also declares that he should do TV ads, like “Paula and M. C.,” for donuts.

Panel Count: Eighty-five panels, which is an increase from the “Perceptions” storyline.

Production Note: Todd McFarlane is credited for lettering this issue, although it looks pretty consistent with the previous issues (a major exception is the way McFarlane draws thought balloons, which look they’re made out of wavy lines instead of clouds). It’s my understanding that McFarlane is left-handed, and lefties couldn’t letter comics back in the hand-lettering days. As explained in the letters page of Punisher War Zone #8: "The reason there are no left-handed letterers is that the left hand would drag over the ink that was just written on the page. The ink that is put on the page has to dry before it can be touched and that takes approximately seven seconds."

Where’s Felix? : Peter and MJ have a Felix vase. Spider-Man also eats “Felix Hut” brand donuts.

Approved By The Comics Code Authority: If you look closely, it’s obvious Peter is pulling down MJ’s shirt as he talks about a “kinky” tickle game.

Miscellaneous Note: The “71” under McFarlane’s signature represents the number of spiders on the cover.

Review: This is the probably the closest McFarlane can get to a “light-hearted” Spider-Man story. It mostly takes place at night, most of the characters are freaky, inbred sewer people, and the villain is a vampire, but at least there aren’t any dead kids or disembowelments. It’s a simple plot about Morbius manipulating some misfits into collecting homeless bums for him to feed on, which is a reasonable starting place for a story. If you’re wondering if these sewer-dwellers have anything to do with the Morlocks, their original leader has a helpful monologue explaining that his group has been underground since ’62, and their ranks have been decimated by the Morlocks over the years. It seems like the Morlocks would’ve worked just as well for the story, but I guess McFarlane didn’t want to deal with any continuity issues with the X-books. The character of Keever (a fat man with terrible teeth who thinks he’s a lot funnier than he really is) seems to be a prototype of Clown/Violator from Spawn. The formulaic “we shouldn’t just ignore the homeless” message also shows up again in Spawn (although Spawn never seemed to do anything to help his homeless friends).

The big selling point of this storyline is seeing Spider-Man back in his black costume. From what I’ve read, McFarlane didn’t care for the black outfit and pushed for a return to the original costume when he worked on Amazing, so it’s a little surprising to see that he was the first to revive it. I’m sure many people thought that this would finally be the Venom issue of McFarlane’s book, but it wasn’t meant to be. (I think David Michelinie was still the only one allowed to write the character during this era. Yes, there was a time when Venom was only allowed to appear in one book.) McFarlane, to his credit, doesn’t ignore MJ’s aversion to the black costume (due to her earlier encounter with Venom), so he spends a few pages having Peter justify wearing it to her. Of course, his justification turns out to be a crock, since his claim that he needs it for “stealth” is contradicted by the giant white eyes and spider-emblems. This is briefly acknowledged in a single thought balloon (Spidey essentially thinks, “Oops!”), but it’s such a massive plot hole I’m surprised no one called for a rewrite. So, we’ve got a thin plot with a giant plot hole. The story’s more fun to read than most of the previous issues, but you really have to turn your brain off this time.


Jeff said...

Maybe it is just because there are no dead or mutilated kids, but I actually don't mind this storyline. It's not a classic, but it's not offensive. And I do love the art.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the Morlocks would've worked, as(unless I'm misremembering) they aren't especially simple-minded, which ends up being a significant plot point when it comes to Morbius' followers.

Harry said...

Hmm, now, let me see. I don't wish to be cynical, but I think I can see why McFarlane brought back the black costume, albeit for one story. You said that Venom could only be written by Micheline at this time, and, as such, could not be featured by McFarlane, and, of course, Venom was hugely popular by 1991, I gather (a little after my comic-reading days)? So, if you can't use Venom, what to do...maybe bring out the black Spider-Man costume for a story, perhaps...?

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